I’m going to tell you a familiar story. If you’re a Christian, this is the most important story you know. This is your story. If you’re not a Christian, this is your story, too, you just don’t know it yet. Either way, I’m telling you this story because when you remember how it all began, when you embrace the narrative within which you walk, you will understand something about the way you think, something to challenge you and give you peace.
Once upon a time there was a king, a bad king, the kind of king who only ever thought of himself, the kind who exploited his people, sucking life from their lungs, feasting on their blood and sweat. Under his reign, all was chaos and darkness, pain and endless dying. Though he spoke of freedom and pleasure, every word to fall from his black lips reeked of deceit. The men, women, and children under his reign loved him like prisoners come to love their keepers.
One especially dark afternoon, a new king arrived in the kingdom. He wore a crown of thorns and all white. With His every step, He shone light and truth, repellent and attractive. The dark king cowered at his undeniable power, though the fountain of lies from his lips still flowed--serve me, ignore him, we have nothing to fear... The people hid in corners and alleys, under blankets, groping for the darkness that was their home, blinded by this inescapable brightness.
But not all the people. Some, drawn by this utterly new and different king, abandoned the false safety of darkness and, like curious animals, peeked through curtains, lingered in doorframes, stared, wondered. Some, the bravest, most curious, most desperate, drug their rotting flesh toward him, sniffing his feet, tugging on the flawless fabric of his robe.
That day the white king would begin his conquering work. Defying the angry liar before him, He whispered to the people, “Come to me.” He held out his hand to the crawling corpses at his feet, reviving them as he lifted them. He made promises of a better kingdom, a place full of love and hope, joy and peace, a place for living forever, a place the opposite of here. He said, follow me. And some did. And slowly their skin flushed with pink and peach. They learned to laugh, and their buoyant voices echoed in the hollow air. They stopped their crawling on the ground and stood, their heads high, eyes open, quickening in the very bright light.
This change was not welcome in the kingdom of darkness. From the moment this figure in white had arrived the dark king had plotted and planned his demise. I am in charge and I will ensure that chaos and pain remain. He determined, If he is the life, I am the death. And death is how he will go.
The dark king stood in the center of his capital and called out to his people. His voice, a devilish trumpet, screeching and cracked, carried across the waste of his lands. The blinded and dead emerged from their graves, pits and caves, crawling like cockroaches toward the sound of their master’s voice. Obediently they swarmed the living king until the dark had put out the light.
And for three days all was dark. But those three days seem so short, looking back.
The white king returned, as you knew he would, more powerful and imposing than ever. The dark king was captured, and put in a cage at the edge of town, awaiting his coming execution. This is where he lives now.
The conquering king reigns over the kingdom of light and his people live forever, feasting on the fruit of their host who fills the table with piles of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
But here’s the surprising part: The dark king still reigns, though defeated. He reigns over a kingdom of darkness in the very same land as the kingdom of light. And he reigns from inside the cage. His people still obey his lying tongue. He tells them the light is dangerous, that the good king is bad, that all he wants is to take and enslave, and the dark king’s people listen and believe and stay away from the table, starving.
What’s worse and almost too bizarre for believing, the dark king recruits the people at the feast, too. He yells his lies from the cage. He says, “The white king is lying.” He says, “My food is better.” He says, “How can you trust him?” He says, “This will not last forever.” He says, “You deserve more.”
And though the people of light sit at the table in the presence of all that is perfect, though they hear the truth and see its proof, the lies--lies they heard for so long, lies they once believed, lies flooding back like a first language--find their way inside, pooling in the corners of their hearts, bubbling up and spilling...
This is the dappled kingdom in which we live, one eye on the dark king while we feast with the Spirit, ever tempted to walk away, ever empowered to stay.